Career advice

How to Prepare for an Interview: Quick Tips and Examples

by Christina Hubmann - March 1st, 2016

Body language makes a big difference. If you see yourself working there, then imagine yourself already working there to emit a positive mind.

Allianz-Photo of a woman working on a laptop

It’s all about the preparation

I would like to introduce Julia. She is 26 years old, holds a master’s degree in International Management and got an invitation for a job interview. Congratulations!

One week before her interview is scheduled Julia sits down to do some interview preparation because she is certain: hiring managers are always impressed when a candidate knows something specific about the company.

While preparing for an interview, not only does Julia scroll through their website; she also considers having a look at other online sources: competitors’ websites, blogs, industry research, social media accounts and LinkedIn member discussions. Knowing what makes the company unique is the key to success. It shows that Julia is not only prepared but also interested in getting this job.

While googling, Julia finds some negative news about the company she applied for. She could think: “What a bad image they have in the media” or she can make the best out of it: come up with fresh ideas as a current outsider. Companies want to hire people who will help them perform at a higher level. Challenge them.

Allianz-Photo of a pen on a sheet of paper

Be punctual. Punctual means being earlier than expected

As we already know, Julia is 26 years old. That means she is one of these ‘digital natives’ who always have a smartphone in their hands on a bus ride – and that it’s normal for Julia to write in a WhatsApp group: “I’m ten minutes late. Go ahead”, when she and her friends wanted to meet up at a bar at 9. Julia’s friends don’t see a problem with this message. Three others will be late anyway and also write something similar two minutes beforehand; the rest will order their first beer already.

When Julia has her job interview next week she should break off this regular behavior. Arriving late at a job interview is not an option. Traffic isn’t an excuse, no free parking slots or construction detours aren’t either. Understanding how to prepare for a job interview in advance also includes knowing exactly where you have to go, how long it takes  to get there and what you do if you miss the connecting train

Make sure to check when you have to be there and for whom you have to ask for at the reception. This is the first test. Don’t forget the possibility of having limited data because you used your GPS too often in the last three weeks. Be old school and simply take a normal sheet of paper and print out a map with directions and names.

Arriving 15 minutes in advance is  always a good idea. You can get a feel for the company’s culture just by sitting in the lobby. Skim through the literature available at the reception. Observe how employees interact, dress, and behave. If you arrive too early, just wait outside or walk round the block. Some recruiters could be annoyed if you distract them from their work half an hour before your interview.

Allianz-Photo of a woman reading interview tips

How to Answer Interview Questions

Julia arrives early and welcomes the hiring boss with a friendly, strong handshake. Julia sits down after being invited to take a seat. She takes out a copy of her current resume, a notepad and a pen, her master’s thesis which she published as a book and the most recently written outstanding work evaluation. Julia knows the power of the printed word.

Julia not only read the job description several times but she is also familiar with the essential interview tips and is able to back up her strengths, which match the requirements, with one or two specific examples. She can describe the most important tasks and best experiences she had at her internships and summer jobs and uses her professional resume to make her stand out from among her peers.

If you’re not like a successful Julia and have a few gaps in your employment: don’t worry, but don’t be surprised if you get asked about them. Be prepared to smooth over anything on your resume that is unusual. The resume is often used as an interview agenda. That means, probing questions about accomplishments or elaborating on different career steps will be standard.

Julia’s interview starts with various typical interview questions from the hiring manager who wants to hear Julia talking to get a feel for her communication skills and personality. She answers each question in about 30-60 seconds but tends to talk too much because of her nervousness. That’s why Julia reminds herself several times to wait until the manager is hungry for more and has a follow-up question.

Allianz-Photo of two men talking during lunchIt’s all about the dialogue…

The hiring manager runs through Julia’s resume and stops at her former job which Julia quit after just a few months. “Why?” he asks. “Because the boss was an idiot”, Julia thinks. “Because turnover was low, resulting in few opportunities to advance my career”, Julia says. It’s natural that most people making a job change are unhappy about something, otherwise they wouldn’t be sitting there.

After running through Julia’s resume, the hiring manager asks: “Do you have any questions for me?” Yes, Julia has prepared some because she knows companies want to hire people who are excited about working for them. Rather than talking about her salary or benefits she asks about the job.

She asks about a typical day in the (new?) position, the most difficult challenges facing the department, the company’s strategy, the management style, the products, markets, and customers and has a lot more questions up her sleeve.

Quick Interview Tips

Recruiters will often probe to find out the reasons. Nevertheless, in no way speak negatively about past employers. Everybody wants to hire a positive team player. It is okay to talk about issues like limited resources or opportunities or a pattern of continual downsizing but it’s not the right time to complain about past team members or bosses. Just don’t get too emotional.

Allianz-Photo of two women talking

Talk not only with your mouth – use your body language as well

If the company gives you a chance, be fair and give them a chance as well. Don’t pre-judge a company just because of a first impression. If the interview is awkward and you’re not entirely sure if you still want it, it might not be the best position for you but wait until you have all the facts before judging this opportunity.

By the way, body language makes a big difference. If you see yourself working there, then imagine yourself already working there to emit a positive mind. Be self-confident, smile, make eye contact, sit up straight and lean forward slightly. Give the impression there’s nothing more important right now than getting this job.

If the chemistry is right, you’re going to feel comfortable once the interview gets going and you will naturally “click” with the recruiter. It’s normal to be nervous and there’s no point not to mention it but if you’re prepared you’ll soon warm to the people interviewing you.

Besides that, never forget to trust your feelings: treat yourself as your own “brand”. Sell yourself and do this confidently, but don’t sell your soul. Rather than curry favor with the recruiter you should enjoy the opportunity of having a cool job within your reach – enjoy it like Julia would: she has the opportunity to get a cool job. Maybe at Allianz Group.

 Written by Christina Hubmann

Christina Hubmann

Global Communications

Christina Hubmann works in the Global Communications team of Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty, the Allianz centre of expertise for global business insurance and large corporate and specialty risks. She has a journalism background.

Show Comments
4 replies
  1. Phil says:

    ‘Be punctual. Punctual means being earlier than expected’ I totally agree with this. Being punctual is a must if you’re apply for a job. This should be first in every job interview tips.

    Reply
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